Gonzalo Puigbo Spotlight
Name: Gonzalo Puigbo
Organization: Somerville Community Corporation
Although Gonzalo Puigbo only recently took the helm of Somerville Community Corporation (SCC), he started his long career working for banks in community lending based in Somerville. He is a self-described “uber volunteer”, accustomed to teaching financial literacy classes and serving as a board member of many nonprofit organizations. Throughout his career in corporate banking, he was a lot of “firsts” as an immigrant person of color, and this status comes with distinct challenges. As he describes it, “I need someone I can talk to, that I can share my frustrations with, that can help me. And I couldn’t find it. Especially with banking, which is a very white, privileged, only-network environment - I couldn’t share that with anybody.” This lack of support helped drive his passion for sharing his experiences and lending his ear to other professionals of color that could use help just like he did.
Gonzalo joined the Mel King Institute Alliance for Racial Equity mentorship program in an unconventional way. In fact, he was looking for a mentor himself! But with his extensive experience mentoring individuals in banking, MKI asked him to serve as a mentor for the program. Gonzalo has continued to mentor through the Alliance program and has served in this role for two years. His passion for mentoring shows through his relationships with his mentees. He cultivates both professional and personal ties with his mentees, discussing topics ranging from his own struggles throughout his career to parenting and moving tips. In particular, he helps his mentees navigate racial bias in the workplace. According to him, “what was really troubling to me is that [my mentee] was having the same troubles that I was having 20 years ago.” Although there is less explicit discrimination in the workplace, oftentimes people of color have trouble advancing into leadership positions due to favoritism in upper management. This societal lack of progress underlines the importance of mentorship and the potential positive impacts on both mentor and mentee. As it turns out, Gonzalo did get his initial wish when joining the Alliance mentorship program, since his first mentee was able to teach him in return about real estate development.
Gonzalo has a process and vision for his approach to mentorship. In his words, “It brings me a lot of satisfaction when you see their growth. First you see their potential, then you see their frustrations, and then you see yourself: ‘I’ve been in those shoes before, let me help this person get out of their frustration’...” These frustrations serve as the basis for growth and success long-term. To Gonzalo, the best thing you can do when you fail is to have somebody to talk to about it on a personal level, that can help you navigate through the failure. In his opinion, there is a misconception that mentoring can be very time consuming. The potential positive impact on mentees is huge, and the time commitment is minimal compared to the potential impact. He hopes more professionals will consider becoming MKI Alliance mentors in the future.